Everyone Wins: Welcome To The Miracle League

September 13, 2017

In a park where hundreds of Escambia County area athletes play baseball, softball and t-ball every year, one set of baseball diamonds stands out from the rest. A rubber surface covers what would normally be clay and grass on three of the fields at the county-owned John R. Jones Jr. Athletic Complex on Nine Mile Road, providing a safe, fun place for everyone who wants to play ball.

And for the Miracle League of Pensacola, “everyone” truly means everyone.

It’s a place where every player plays, hits, gets on base, scores and wins – every game. Operating out of the John R. Jones Jr. Athletic Complex, the Miracle League of Pensacola provides physically and mentally challenged children and adults an opportunity to play baseball, softball and t-ball just like anyone else, all in a spirited and secure environment.

“The most exciting thing is getting to see the kids,” said Miracle League of Pensacola President and Co-Founder Larry Thompson, who started the program in 2002 with his late wife Donna. “In a sense, we’ve watched them grow up. They’re more than just players to us – they’re part of our family, too.”

Thompson said the program has grown from 28 players at its inception to about 250 for the current fall season.

The Miracle League of Pensacola relies on its many volunteers or “buddies” to keep the program going, along with community partners including the Escambia County Parks and Recreation Department.

In addition to Escambia County donating the land at the park for the Miracle League to use, the Parks and Recreation Department has assisted with sidewalks, bleacher areas and perimeter areas to the newest Miracle League field. Recently, the department also coordinated with Miracle League to provide additional field safety netting and enhanced parking options.

Escambia County Parks and Recreation Director Michael Rhodes said the Miracle League of Pensacola has been a great community asset, and the county is honored to be able to support the organization’s mission.

“I’ve witnessed the joy on their faces and the sense of accomplishment on players’ faces over my years at the county,” Rhodes said. “I’ve witnessed the feeling of inclusion by those players when they’re getting to play a game that some probably thought they’d never get to play.”

District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry also spoke to the organization’s positive impact.

“The success and growth at the Miracle League is a fantastic example of a volunteer board and nonprofit organization changing the lives of not only our players, but also their families and all of our player buddies and our coaches,” Barry said. “Many of our volunteers, buddies, and their families have given thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to support our players and I thank them.”

And while Escambia County Parks and Recreation plays a role in Miracle League, Rhodes said the real credit belongs to the Miracle League volunteers who work hard on a daily basis to keep the program going.

“We’re happy to do the part that we can to provide the park, to provide the location and to assist with improvements at the facility, but the volunteers that provide assistance at the Miracle League provide such a key element to that organization’s mission and the success they’ve had over the years,” Rhodes said.

Commissioner Lumon May, who represents District 3 where the park is located, agreed that the county is pleased to support Miracle League and what it brings to the community.

“Miracle League of Pensacola provides an opportunity for all athletes to participate in the great game of baseball, which can be life-changing for those who might not have been able to play otherwise,” May said. “Youth sports are such a fundamental part of childhood, and nobody should be excluded from participating based on their ability.”

Thompson said one of the most rewarding parts of Miracle League is getting to witness the smiles on the players’ faces and watching them overcome physical limitations to achieve things they may have once considered impossible.

“I’ve seen kids come in with cerebral palsy that can’t hit a pitched baseball,” Thompson said. “We used to use a tee 90 percent of the time when we started, and now you may see us use a tee 10 percent of the time. It’s amazing to think you can take the same group of kids and see them hit a pitched ball – people who didn’t think they could even play ball.”

The Miracle League of Pensacola strives to facilitate a sense of inclusion for all who play, Thompson said, with the age of participants ranging from 3 years old to 61 years old.

“The Miracle League is built at a regular baseball park,” he said. “It’s not where I play ball – it’s where we play ball.”

To learn more about the Miracle League of Pensacola or how to become a volunteer, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Comments

4 Responses to “Everyone Wins: Welcome To The Miracle League”

  1. Miracle League of Pensacola on September 13th, 2017 8:55 pm

    We are always accepting new players and volunteers-join us!

  2. Gene on September 13th, 2017 8:19 am

    A great way to start a Saturday morning. Ive been going for the last couple of years. If you have a child that is has limitations in some areas this is a great outlet to celebrate them. Come out experience it for yourself. Best article ive seen here in a while.Thanks for the exposure.

  3. Carol Joyner on September 13th, 2017 8:07 am

    You are missing out if you don’t go watch a miracle league game in Pensacola! Truly inspirational and the best fun in town. Come out and see this weekend!

  4. Chris on September 13th, 2017 2:47 am

    Great program…Its really grown over the years.
    Go out and support it





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